The Dutch government has announced that Pakistani Christians will be designated as a "high risk group," opening the door for them to receive special considerations as refugees in the country.
Thousands of religious minorities have fled Pakistan due to religious persecution, and many of them have taken asylum in the Netherlands. The high risk designation will allow them further protections under the Dutch government.
In January, the government recognised the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan as a high risk group, but declined to give the same status to Pakistani Christians.
The Middle East Forum for Development (MEFD) and British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) organised a Special Hearing last March at the Dutch House of Representatives calling for special status to be given to the Christians, and for the Dutch Members of Parliament to take measures to protect the group.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs published an updated report in November on the status of religious minorities in Pakistan, and the change in asylum policy for Pakistani Christians was announced on December 18. The chair of the House of Representatives in The Hague was informed that if a Pakistani Christian reports being persecuted because of his faith, the government will expedite the process to issue them an asylum permit.
Middle East Forum for Development founder Mosa Zahed praised the Netherlands' reaction to the plight of persecuted Christians, but said that more must be done to protect minorities.
"It is commendable that the Dutch government recognises Pakistani Christians as a risk group which guarantees them safety and protection in the Netherlands," he stated. "However the issue of rising extremism in Pakistan remains largely un-addressed, leading to increasing attacks on ethnic and religious minorities, but also children are being targeted now as we have witnessed in Peshawar."
The international community was united in condemnation after Peshawar's Army Public School was attacked by the Pakistani Taliban on December 16, leaving 132 children and 13 other dead.